CBR bingo square ‘funky’, because…Sona Movsesian seems like a funky and groovy person, and Conan O’Brien used to do a funky little ‘string dance’ with his hips, and Max Weinberg and the Max Weinberg 7 were pretty funky back in the day, and Sona Movsesian is Conan O’Brien’s assistant. If I haven’t horribly misjudged the time difference and therefore deadline or missed something else egregious, I believe this review completes a bingo for me.
‘A million girls would kill for this job’ is, of course, what Andy keeps getting told in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), as she desperately tries to stay afloat in her new job at Runway under the vicious Miranda Priestly. Being a personal assistant is supposed to be hell. Indeed, the cover of Movsesian’s book gestures towards this, with Conan’s face obscured by a goatee, devil horns poking out of his hair, while Sona glowers beneath a halo. However, Sona’s life and her relationship with her boss seem…pretty chill? Movsesian is both the voice of reason on the podcast, precisely puncturing Conan’s exaggeration and hubris; in the office, based on the various clips, she is also a source of chaos and of limited actual efficiency as an assistant. I’m reminded of Daisy in Spaced hoping that she’ll get a job despite a disastrous interview because the office needs a ditzy one, someone they like having around just for the vibes. Based on Movsesian’s persona–which both Conan and Andy Richter concur to be authentic, with the implication that she might be too lazy and chill to craft one–she does seem fun. Funky even. It’s a breezy read, with some fun behind-the-scenes looks. The moments in the book where she pushes back a little sharply against the patriarchy of the entertainment industry are interesting, and I’d have liked more of that:
Uninspired questions getting canned responses. Until my last question, which is when I ask him if he has any advice for me.
“Women in this industry only move up if they work ten times harder than men or if they’re insanely attractive.”
[…]What if he works 40 hours> There are way less than four hundred hours in a week, so how would I even do that? And when would I sleep? I love sleeping. Or maybe I take a male colleague’s effort and just multiply that by ten? How? How do you multiply effort? If he takes half an hour to pick up lunch for the office, how would I do that ten times quicker? Can I physically pick up lunch in three minutes? (p. 155)
I love Conan O’Brien–I watched Late Night in the nineties and early 2000s in Finland, I bear a permanent grudge against both Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon, I put TeamCoco YouTube clips on to fall asleep to when I thought my dad was dying a couple of years ago and I listened to Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend while I was practising walking slowly, up and down the parking lot behind my block of flats, up and down interminably, after my surgery last year. I don’t always agree with Conan; he may be a little reluctant to confront what some of his comedy idols have become today (particularly a tall English one who used to be in Monty Python) or disagree with a guest in general, and I’m not sure he fully understands ‘cancel culture’–but still. I love him and I hope nothing violently horrible comes out about him.
Nothing too terrible emerges from Movsesian’s memoir/’how to be an assistant without losing your soul’ guide. Sure O’Brien can be an antic jester at times, the kind an old timey king would lock up in a dungeon and feed on bread and water, perhaps, and he is–and this comes across in the Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop documentary as well–driven, which can be very difficult to be around. However, the sense I get is that he’s basically a decent guy with minimal malice in him? But I hope I live to read the memoir Movsesian writes when she’s retired and her NDA has expired.